Today’s subject of our weekly driver debates is Super Aguri pilot Anthony Davidson.
How does he stack up against team mate Takuma Sato? What would he do in a more competitive car? Read my opinion and have your say below.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Anthony Davidson made his F1 début with the wrong team at the wrong time in the wrong circumstances. And for a long while after his two appearances with Minardi in 2002 – both of which ended in retirement – it looked as though he’d had his F1 chance and blown it.
But those who looked more closely at his brief stint with the Italian team saw genuine promise. In his first F1 race at the Hungaroring his fastest race lap was two-tenths quicker than Mark Webbers – and few doubted Webber deserved a seat with a top team.
BAR saw the potential and snapped up Davidson as their third driver. In 2004, when the team were at the peak of their form and he was the Friday test driver, Davidson’s number 35 car would often appear at the top of the practice times.
But they never actually put him in a race car, except for a brief appearance at the 2005 Malaysian Grand Prix in place of Takuma Sato. It was ruined by engine after a mere handful of laps.
As long as Jenson Button occupied one of the BAR seats (which became Honda in 2006), Davidson was never likely to get a drive – ordinarily there is little commercial value in having two drivers of the same nationality in one team.
However the opposite to that logic worked against Davidson when Honda created the Super Aguri team, who specifically wanted two drivers of the same nationality – Japanese – in their team. Davidson stayed on the sidelines as Rubens Barrichello took Takuma Sato’s place at Honda, while Sato joined Super Aguri with Yuji Ide.
In 2007 Super Aguri changed their approach and placed Davidson in the car alongside Sato – but it was still very much the case that the Japanese driver was number one. He justified it by scoring four points early in the season when the team was at its most competitive.
As the season wore on and Davidson found his feet he began regularly out-qualifying and out-racing Sato. At Istanbul he drove a near-perfect qualifying lap to line up 11th on the grid.
He kept his place in the team this year and it’s believed that Honda spurned an investment offer from the Indian Spice Group for the team because they wanted to replace Davidson with Narain Karthikeyan. After three races it looks like Davidson has maintained and perhaps even extended his advantage over Sato.
Sato may not be the greatest benchmark in F1 (we’ll discuss his career in detail here next week) but I think Davidson’s done enough to deserve a shot with a decent team. Whether he gets it or not will sadly probably be down to luck and economics rather than his talent.